Pericles in the funeral oration for the first Athenians to fall during the Peloponnesian War said
Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long as he has it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity because of poverty. And, just as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other…We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our deep respect.
This speech sets out, eloquently, the Athenian ideal of government and also of day-to-day life. This is the same ideal that continues to fire all Western Democracies until this past month. It is important to note that it is an ideal, something that shines as a goal, something that is not wholly realizable, that escapes all our attempts to totally fulfill as a matter of practical execution. Athenians did not apply this ideal to slaves in their time nor did the founding fathers of the American version apply this to Africans living in the New World. But, since this constitution is an ideal it has the capacity to be expanded to become inclusive so that Africans in the USA, other minorities can become citizens within this description. That is until 20 January 2017.
The new regime, because properly speaking, that is what the Great Leader’s government is, will soon become a junta, if the Great Leader gets his way. The Great Leader has every intention of severing the long link to the Athenian ideal. And the easiest, smoothest road to perdition is by identifying a group, any group as Other, as the enemy. In this way, citizenship, freedom and humanity are stripped from a small group, a minority to start with. But, the ultimate desire is to have total power, to secure authoritarian rule, to govern by Decree and Fiat. Discussion, debate, politics will be abjured. The press is already in the line of fire for standing in the way of despotism. Pericles’ ideal is not the model that the Great Leader seeks. In his vision, being human is not universal, it is only an attribute that people like him possess.
Who is “other” in this scheme? It is much easier to start with anyone with visible difference, a darker shade of melanin will suffice, a different religion, facing east and bowing low, anyone who is not one of us, an “immigrant” perhaps? And why does this despicable method work?
At one level, it is one of the most primitive principles in the animal kingdom, the xenophobic principle (E.O.Wilson).
The sight of an alien bird, for example, energises a flock of Canada geese, evoking a full panoply of threat displays accompanied by repeated mass approaches and retreats…A new bird introduced into an organized [chicken] flock will, unless it is unusually vigorous, suffer attacks for days on end whilst being forced down on to the lowest status.
The human equivalent is well demonstrated in the crowds that gather at the Great Leader’s rallies. That is the level of regression that the Great Leader’s crowds operate at and that’s not surprising- chanting in unison is designed to subjugate the rational senses so that poisonous ideas can take root. You now understand the role of the chant ‘Lock her up’, ‘Build the Wall’ and more recently ‘Fake News’. These are hypnosis inducing techniques that the Great Leader has mastered and uses effectively to great effect upon his self-selected subjects. These are the people who no longer regard themselves as citizens but rather are subjects in the sense of being subject to his powers and menaces. They have given up all authority, all autonomy.
It is true that the xenophobic principle is alive within human groups. Outsiders, no matter how defined are “other” and can be cast as an evil, monolithic force. The language used can dehumanize so that the “other” can be brutally treated, indeed killed without conscience. The systematic work to render all “immigrants” as “other” is ongoing. Next will be transportation, concentration camps, and murder. After all, these are “immigrants” and they are criminals, gang members, who murder and rape our women!
What is astonishing is that this insidious destruction of fealty is being executed in our presence, not at night, on trains away in a remote siding and a camp out of sight, but the assault, on common decency, was carried and is being carried out at airports, both at home and abroad, by perfectly normal and decent people. That’s the surprise and the shame.
Racism and entrenched xenophobia, not as a group phenomenon, but as an individual affliction, a malignant disease currently, like the plague, distempering those close to the Great Leader is another matter all together. You have to imagine the lowest form of self-esteem, think of the sludge at the bottom of a pond or canal, dark, filthy and foetid, then you have a grasp of the inner life of the afflicted. This is a grave condition, near fatal except for the possibility of describing another class (and it has to be a class) of people as not human and therefore without any effort our racists, the Great Leader’s team, can be better than some other human being. This monumental delusion can only be sustained by great effort of will. Hence, the gargantuan energy expended dressing up as Ku Klux Klan, or in the case of Aryan the Younger, wearing a brilliant white shirt, a dark tie, an over tidy hair and an erect stance, a caricature of the SS if there was ever one. But, the best exemplar is the Great Wizard himself, untidy, obese, unshaven, grotesque and deplorable on any scale- he hasn’t the energy to hide or dissemble the foul odours of his inner life. He is recognizably unpleasant. The inner pathology is actually quite simple- we have deep self-hatred that can only be assuaged by the hatred of others.
The Great Leader is in a very different category indeed. Our two-year old feeds on attention, the lust for the limelight is insatiable as is the belief that only his needs matter and sadly that he is the only sentient being in the universe. Allied to this is the unmistakable terror that he does not exist, that only when he occupies central station and is beyond doubt illuminated by the spotlight does he feel alive, just as some people need to self-cut, to see blood flow in order to re-affirm that they are alive and exist. The Great Leader’s lust for the spotlight is a malignant equivalent of this- deprived of this lifeblood, his very being is under threat, hence the impulse to be centre stage, and it does not much matter how this impulse is served. Lying is just one of the many schemes that call attention to the Great Leader. There are, of course, several motivations for the lying, as we say this sickness is over determined as to its origins.
The deep sense of emptiness, the terror of being non-existent, the dread that has no ready name but that is experienced as near annihilation, the impoverished spirit, hollow and already corrupted, and the mask of confidence that is just that, a mask that slips all too easily and that has to be supported by props: an executive table, a pen, paper, a football or baseball cap, mannerisms that are jerky and language that is stripped to mere grunts and single words, eschewing grammar and order. These are the props that mask utter unspeakable terror, an emptiness that clings like spittle to a non-existent self.
And as for relationships, think of the mimicry that infects the likes of Farage and Gove such that they leave their adult and responsible selves behind and pose for photos that undermine their integrity forever. Actually that belittle them, reducing any significance they previous had to no more than mere postscript in history. This mimicry, best described as echopraxia is how the Great Leader has chosen to undermine whatever autonomy these men had before appearing with him in photos.
As for the Vicar’s Daughter, hand in hand, fingers clutching, she was defiled in full view of the world. The Great Leader shows no sign of affection for his consort, except where it is stage-managed. He never or rarely looks at her, never openly seeks her comfort or interest, yet he is hand holding with the Vicar’s Daughter in record time. Think pollution, think moral corruption, think an un-washable stain. The Vicar’s Daughter’s moral rectitude forever compromised.
What can we learn from these encounters? Simply that the Great Leader is a mortally serious disease that seeks to infect and destroy whatever moral compass an individual has. But, that also the Great Leader’s relationships are at considerable risk of moral death. World leaders be warned.
Finally I want to turn to that matter of chaos. I was taught once that the physical three-dimensional world is the visible projection, the instantiated version of an individual’s inner life. And what can we say about the Great Leader from his isolation in the cavernous spaces of the White House, the absence of light, the scrambling for light at night, the need for rivalry and dysfunction between the members of his entourage, the restless frenzy and impetuous twitter finger, the reliance on tabloid sensationalism for information and the disdain for truth, for honest reporting and hunger for triumph and accolade in the face of defeat and dislike. The real uncoordinated, stuttering engine of his reality, all the witnessed impropriety and failures of judgment and the misjudgments and idiosyncrasies, what do they say abut the Great Leader? We can say that these visible chaotic architectures of his manifest physical world are but mere and trivial reflections of the chaos inside. Mind you, the inner chaos is several magnitudes more severe and destructive.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
This has nothing to do with optics. You and I can see pretty well. We are not beholding an illusion. The spectacle and performance before us, the displays of deceit and dissimulation are real enough. And the fast moving evolution of events, the rush as of Rapids approaching a precipice, a cataclysm, this is real too.
It is the rise of The Great Leader that has shown how naked power can arise from democracy and turn into tyranny. What would have been unthinkable just barely 21 days ago is now already more than realised. Tyranny is installed in the centre of life. How frighteningly & rapidly did things develop to this nadir of our common imagination.
In the centre of power is a man supported and surrounded by extremists with an agenda that is inimical to the interests of all but their closest friends and families. Racism, vulgar hatred of Islam, rejection of equal rights for women, the signalled intention to damage cross national institutions like the UN and EU including even NATO. In 21 days everything that ensured a secure but imperfect world has altered to create a blatantly imperfect world teetering on a precipice of intercontinental war, a world war. And there’s the suspicion that the newly installed Great Leader is dying to use the nuclear option. He is aided by a man who believes that we need to destroy the world in order to create a new world order that is Christian and capitalist, read white Christian.
How can it be possible that we have gone in such a short time from security to abysmal insecurity? How is it possible that we can wake to find that we are neither subjects nor citizens, merely disposable ciphers in the fantasy of creatures whose inner life is horrid and degenerate?
And most galling is the realisation that we are relatively helpless. That authority and power produces a trance like response in human beings- a willingness to obey, to avoid harm, to retreat to a place of safety even if one doesn’t exist. And that for most people, fear and denial of the obvious is the ready to hand strategy. It can’t possibly be true that we have elected a thief, a ruthless despot, someone with no morals, a liar true and true,, also through and through. That is the phase we are in, the vast majority cannot quite grasp the enormity of the problem. Even the politicians who ought to know better, who are used to what practical lying is about can’t quite see the stark difference between the new world and the old. Everyone is trying to do business as usual, scrutinising nominees, marching in defiance, telling jokes and hoping that it’s a dream.
But it’s not a dream, it is reality and an awful one too. The measures that are required will not be subtle or without damage. The. Great Leader is in the centre of power, he has encircled himself with his praetorian guards, his very own, not the nation’s security or secret service but his own paid for force. Imagine having to bring to bear on the White House, the symbol of power, anything like the armed ambush that it may require to eject the aberration that is the Great Leader from his lair. We are in for a nasty time indeed.
It is the long term damage to the notion of democracy that’s most severe. What now for countries like Zimbabwe, The Congo, what hope that the rule by consent will ever materialise. Given that the example of the Great Leader exemplifies the underbelly of democracy- you can definitely vote in a despot who rides in on the horse manure of lies and more lies. A person who trades on hatred and fear, whose determination for self enrichment excludes nothing whatsoever. Power is here for enrichment not for governance, except if governance is the incompetent managerialism that’s being projected. Talk of “deals” masks the incompetence and dishonesty of the protagonist.
But, that is not my real concern. It is the insidious accommodation of evil that is most troubling. That’s my concern. We human beings are no more than termites in our social organisation. Once we establish the power hierarchy the structures of obedience and obeisance crystallise. Since these power lines are invisible we don’t even recognise how subservient we are. Only a handful of people obey only their own conscience. Mostly we trade in submission, passivity and blind obedience. The ordinary, decent folk of Homeland Security did their duties- they handcuffed 5 year olds, locked up 80 year old widows frail and close to death from diabetes, separated families, deprived thousands of food and drink, trampled on their rights all at the say so of the Great Leader! I am yet to read of mass resignations, attendances at church to seek forgiveness or redemption. The unspoken cry is “I was doing my duty”. Like termites we are mostly unthinking and obedient.
The Great Leader may be despicable, may be contemptible, but his orders are being translated, enacted and carried out by perfectly ordinary people who this past Xmas would never have thought they were part of a tyrannical army. But, they are whether they like it or not. I am hoping that someone is keeping a record of their names and station. The time will come when they will have to answer for their actions. This time round we are all witnesses to barbarity and we will give evidence when the time comes.
I am also troubled by how the cry “Immigrant “ across vast swathes of the West is now a call to at the very least treat with utmost contempt or worse to kill. What this cry lacks in specificity it makes up for in its broad brush approach. The masterminds of evil no longer care to simply target black people, or Asians, or Hispanics, or muslims. The term “immigrant” can stand for whoever you wish in your local jurisdiction but we know who we are not referring to, don’t we. That’s the key- an understanding that “immigrant” is colour coded. A white American cannot by definition be an immigrant anywhere, even if he’s only been American for 60 seconds. An African American on the other hand even though his forebears have been in America for 500 years is still an immigrant. As for the Native American, he’s very definitely an immigrant, he’s only been here 10000 years and we all know “we built this country!”
The Great Leader and his praetorian guard have a lucrative commerce on the most primitive, most basic of emotions- fear and hatred. They’ve already grown immensely rich on it. These base feelings run their course but sadly, tragically need blood, gore, concrete enemies preferably war and defeat before they can be expiated. Watch out for war, not the proxy wars that have sufficed in 70 years but direct and savage war. The Great Leader needs to consolidate power, he needs to distract attention from his treason, he is counting on making even more money, and he is not intending to be thwarted.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
It has been the most remarkable few days. There’s been an underlying undertow in the air, an unseen wave that clutches at the feet, sweeping the sand away and undermining security. If you’ve ever stood at Bar Beach in Lagos with Atlantic high rollers surging towards you and crashing down, foam and spume everywhere, droplets of sea water and a fine film of whatever it is clinging to the sweat on the face, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. The Atlantic at Bar Beach upends all certainty. Well, that’s exactly what the news has been from Washington this past 10 days or so. It would be a cliché to quote the over-quoted WB Yeats “things fall apart the centre cannot hold” but it is for once truly apposite.
The only person firm footed as the sand slips away is the conductor of chaos and even he does not stand he sits before a large executive table surrounded by the fawning, lesser men who look on as he signs again decrees that deprive the poor of their health, as he removes the titles to their homes, as he moves to install hatred in the precincts, and as he prepares for war. He sits as Canetti says in Crowds and Power that Power positions itself- “the downward pressure of his weight confirms his authority and the longer he makes it felt the more secure he appears”. Canetti concludes “There is hardly a single human institution which has not made use of this fact [sitting firmly] to preserve and strengthen its position”.
The Leader sits and he issues decrees. This is not demotic assigned power or authority. This is the kind of power that at a gesture signals death; a mere raised eyebrow, a flick of the hand in a dismissive gesture, a turn of the corners of the mouth signaling disgust and the minions paraded for effect rush to carry out murder, to detain and torture, and before you know it as the blonde Angel of Death said “ We have their names” the voices of opposition will have their tongues torn from the roofs of their mouths, they will be ‘disappeared’.
And to properly understand the fear of questions, the rare News Conference, and the fear that both has to be masked and then turned to anger and hostility and ultimately to despotic muzzling of the inquisitive and curious, we must turn once again to Canetti. Asking questions are an exhibition of power, questioning enhances power. The Leader could not reasonably or possibly expose himself to questions. The Great Leader is beyond questioning. He knows everything as he is “clever”, very clever. As Canetti says, ‘The situation is most dangerous for the person questioned when short, concise answers are demanded; it is difficult, if not impossible, to dissemble convincingly in a few words”. All you have to watch is the Blonde Angel of Death (the one with the list of miscreant journalists) in meltdown- prolix beyond compare and leaking her anxieties, displaying her bleeding inner wounds, her lack of sleep without interruption. That is the signal fear, that the truth might be revealed once under scrutiny. There is only so much “alternative facts” that anyone can both utter and sell to oneself.
Answers restrict the movements of the person who gives…
it forces him to take up a fixed position and to remain there, whereas his questioner can shoot at him from anywhere.
I hope it is now clear why the Great Leader cannot abide questions. Much as the Bar Beach sucks away certainty, questions pull at the legs and seat of the chair, and the Great Leader is an immature retarded adult, whose tactics hide the fear that his terror will be exposed. Sadly he is in trouble already since his insecurities are all there to be seen and studied. The more the Great Leader uses props, the more the signing of decrees is orchestrated, the larger his entourage is, the more obvious are his defects, the lacunae in the core of his being.
But, it is impossible for a writer to ignore the absurdity of the transactions conducted in the language of dystopia- “Crooked H” when the Great Leader means “Crooked Me”. “The Carnage that is America” when the Great Leader means “The Carnage that is Me”. The Great Leader often refers to himself when he speaks of others. I was taught as a mere 6 year old boy that the person who shouts “Thief, thief” in the marketplace and who points to someone else is the very thief himself. That folk teaching is one worth keeping in mind today. Most significantly describing the media as the most dishonest people can be read simply in line with his previous mode of speech- “I’m the most dishonest person there is”.
The Great Leader also makes predictions by attributing events that have not remotely happened to other people- he accused John McCain of wanting to cause WWIII when there was nothing suggesting that at all- that was a significant leakage from the Great Leaders unconscious that’s worth hearing.
I must bring in Orwell (1984) who understood all this with immense perspicacity_
…the four ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv and Miniplenty.
Personally I am going to be watching out for the Ministry of Love as it seeks to call hatred, the use of force and detentions against citizens and aliens alike, love actually!
And as to Newspeak, that language of deception, of dissimulation had a purpose. Its perverse intention was the diminution of vocabulary. It was much better for people to grunt, so that only simple purposive thoughts usually involving concrete objects or physical actions could be expressed and for that, there was the Great Leader himself as the model. Classes did not need to be set up, Twitter and its penchant for simplicity and crassness was the favoured medium and when the Great Leader actually spoke, well then, this was Newspeak in action. Peremptory and ill coordinated thoughts, and single words that lent credence to brute adjectives were his preferred choice- “Fantastic; Great; Sad; etc.”
We are unlucky to be living under a regime, for that is what this is, that is already describing the concepts behind oldthink– as wicked and decadent. So, morality, truth, honour, humane feelings, freedoms, all these are oldthink and must therefore be destroyed. The purpose was for the vocabulary to shrink and meaning to be erased. What dangerous times! Finally, all scientific terms must be banished- knowledge, intellectual activity, technical knowledge, expertise must all be destroyed. No surprises that the science of global warming and the independent expertise of the academic community must be systematically undermined and then simply declared false and irrelevant.
The Great Leader’s singular desire is not merely to have power, all to himself. But, to give commands, to sign decrees because that is what power allows you to do. And, the ultimate power is to decree that others die by signing decrees to send them to their deaths, at war. The many more he can send to their deaths, the more power accrues to him. Mind you, it makes no difference whether the dead are his subjects, his citizens or the enemy. The size of the mound is what counts. It is already clear that the Great Leader has every intention to cause death, a large number of deaths. He will not cease until he has accomplished this task.
Can he be stopped, that’s the question.
Photos by Jan Oyebode